Decrying Crimes against Civilians, Calling for Immediate Ceasefire in Ukraine, Speakers Tell Security Council Peace Talks Crucial to Ending Conflict

Russian Federation Delegate Claims West Prevented Kyiv from Making Peace, but Ukrainian Minister Says Country Will Continue Defending Itself

Ministers, senior officials and representatives from around the world called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and for peace talks to commence, decrying the crimes being committed against civilians and children, while warning against escalation of the conflict into a third world war, as the Security Council addressed for the second time in a week the impact of the conflict on both the region and the international community.

“The guns are talking now, but in the end we all know that the path of diplomacy and accountability is the road to a just and sustainable peace,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, painting a bleak portrait of the situation in Ukraine, where 17.6 million people — 40 per cent of the population — require humanitarian assistance.

Life is a living hell for the people of that country, he said, with 30 per cent of pre-war jobs erased and nearly 40 per cent of Ukrainians unable to afford or access enough food. The war has sparked a displacement crisis not seen in Europe in decades, with 8 million Ukrainian refugees and 5.4 million people internally displaced.

However, progress has been made under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he noted, reporting that 20 million metric tons of foodstuffs have now been safely reconnected to global supply chains on more than 700 ships, helping to bring down prices around the world. He also urged all parties to implement a nuclear safety protection zone at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station to avoid a serious accident with potentially disastrous consequences.

Many speakers condemned crimes committed by the Russian Federation in the past year, spotlighting the forced deportation of tens of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russian families. They also called attention to the General Assembly resolution adopted on 23 February which called on the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops and follows the logic of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan to restore respect for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We should never lose sight of the human drama,” said Brazil’s representative, urging the international community to put aside illusions about a military solution. He voiced concern about the armed stalemate on the ground, triumphalist rhetoric on both sides and prospects of new military offensives, noting that time has come to also give voice to those who want to speak in ways to build peace. International humanitarian law and its principles are not optional, he emphasized, adding that countries such as his — which are not directly involved in the conflict — have a constructive role to play in fostering dialogue.

China’s delegate, stressing that the international community must think about how to stop the fighting as soon as possible, pointed to the position paper just issued by his Government on a political settlement aiming to help resolve the conflict. Citing the impartial stance of his delegation, he said a solution must observe universally recognized law. The strengthening of military blocs will not bring about peace, he observed, calling on the international community to create platforms for negotiations — the only way to resolve the conflict.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said as a direct neighbour of Ukraine, his country is faced with its tragic consequences of the war on a daily basis. The longer this war lasts, the more losers there will be, more damage will occur, and more people will be killed, he cautioned, noting that deliveries of weapons — with further packages of sanctions — do not save lives. “If channels of communications are stopped, the hope for peace is given up,” he said, calling on States to concentrate on how to prevent the conflict from escalating into a third world war. In this context, he warned against direct confrontation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Russian Federation.

Antony Blinken, Secretary of State for the United States, said when President Vladimir Putin found he could not break the Ukrainian military, he tried to break the Ukrainian spirit. Despite the thousands of men, women and children killed, the energy infrastructure destroyed, and children abducted and relocated to the Russian Federation, the spirit of Ukrainians is stronger than ever. The Council should not be fooled by any calls for a ceasefire, he stressed, noting that the Russian Federation will use any pause in fighting to replenish its forces. “Russia fights for conquest. Ukraine fights for its freedom.” If the Russian Federation stops fighting, the war ends, but if Ukraine stops fighting, it ceases to exist, he warned.

Refuting that, the Russian Federation’s representative insisted: “Ukraine is up to its elbows in blood and Nazi tattoos.” If Ukraine did not wage war against the people in Donetsk and Luhansk, there would have been no need for Moscow’s special military operation and Crimea would have probably remained within Ukraine. Moscow has never stated that it intends to “de-Ukrainize” Ukraine, he emphasized, rejecting the claim that if Ukraine will stop fighting, there will be no Ukraine. Instead, if Ukraine ends hostilities, it will get the chance to be reborn as a peace-loving State. Moscow is ready to negotiate about how the goals of the special military operation could be implemented using peaceful means. Ending hostilities, however, is not in the interest of the collective West which prevented the Kyiv regime from making peace in April 2022, he pointed out.

Rejecting that narrative, Dmytro Kuleba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, declared: “Ukraine will resist as it has done so far, and Ukraine will win.” Russian propaganda has fabricated this hypocritical narrative that supplying Ukraine with weapons fuels the war, adding that his country indeed needs weapons, just as a firefighter needs water to extinguish a fire. While arming a country that defends itself from aggression is legitimate and is an act of defending the Charter of the United Nations, helping an aggressor is illegitimate and constitutes a crime under the Charter. In this context, he urged for the establishment of a special tribunal with specific jurisdiction over the crime of aggression against Ukraine and the ability to deal with the personal immunities of the principal perpetrators, beginning with President Vladimir Putin.

Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Malta, Albania, Ecuador, Switzerland, Japan, France, United Kingdom, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Gabon, Mozambique, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Germany, Latvia (on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries), Republic of Moldova, Netherlands (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Accountability following the aggression against Ukraine), Italy, North Macedonia, Spain, Czech Republic, Croatia and Estonia. The High Representative of the European Union, in its capacity as an observer, also spoke.

Source: UN Security Council

Disease Outbreak News: Marburg virus disease – Equatorial Guinea (25 February 2023)

On 7 February 2023, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Equatorial Guinea reported the deaths of a number of individuals with suspected hemorrhagic fever.

On 12 February 2023, one sample was confirmed positive for Marburg virus by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), at the Institute Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal.

Investigations are ongoing to find additional cases. WHO is supporting the response by strengthening contact tracing, case management, infection prevention and control, laboratory, risk communication and community engagement.

WHO assesses the risk posed by the outbreak as high at the national level, moderate at the regional level and low at the global level.

Description of the situation

This is the first Marburg virus disease (MVD) outbreak reported in Equatorial Guinea.

On 7 February 2023, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Equatorial Guinea reported at least eight deaths that occurred between 7 January and 7 February 2023, in two villages located in the district of Nsock Nsomo, eastern province of Kie-Ntem, Río Muni Region. According to the ongoing epidemiological investigation, the cases presented with fever, followed by weakness, vomiting, and blood-stained diarrhoea; two cases also presented with skin lesions and otorrhagia (bleeding from the ear).

On 9 February 2023, eight blood samples were collected from contacts and sent to the Centre Interdisciplinaire de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF) in Gabon, where they tested negative for both Ebola and Marburg viruses by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

An additional eight blood samples were collected from other contacts and sent to the Institute Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal, on 12 February 2023. One of these samples was taken from a suspected case that was confirmed positive for Marburg virus by RT-PCR. This case presented with fever, non-bloody vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, and convulsions and died on 10 February 2023 at Ebebiyin District Hospital. The case also had epidemiological links to four deceased cases from one of the villages in Nsoc-Nsomo district.

As of 21 February 2023, the cumulative number of cases is nine, including one confirmed case, four probable cases and four suspected cases. All the cases have died, one in a health facility and the other eight in the community. There are no cases among healthcare workers. Thirty-four contacts are currently under follow-up.

Epidemiology of Marburg virus disease

Marburg virus is the causative agent of Marburg virus disease (MVD), which has a case-fatality ratio of up to 88%. Marburg virus disease was initially detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade, Serbia.

Rousettus aegyptiacus fruit bats are considered natural hosts for Marburg virus, from which the virus is then transmitted to people.

Marburg spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids. Healthcare workers have previously been infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed MVD. Burial ceremonies that involve direct contact with the body of the deceased can also contribute to the transmission of Marburg.

The incubation period varies from two to 21 days. Illness caused by Marburg virus begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and severe malaise. Severe watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting can begin on the third day. Severe haemorrhagic manifestations appear between five and seven days from symptoms onset, and fatal cases usually have some form of bleeding, often from multiple areas. In fatal cases, death occurs most often between eight and nine days after symptom onset, usually preceded by severe blood loss and shock.

In the early course of the disease, the clinical diagnosis of MVD is difficult to distinguish from many other tropical febrile illnesses due to the similarities in the clinical symptoms. Other viral haemorrhagic fevers need to be excluded, including Ebola virus disease, as well as malaria, typhoid fever, leptospirosis, rickettsial infections, and plague. Laboratory confirmation can be made by different tests, such as antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), antigen-capture detection tests, serum neutralization test, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, electron microscopy, and virus isolation by cell culture.

Although no vaccines or antiviral treatments are approved to treat the virus, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms improve survival. A range of potential treatments are being evaluated, including blood products, immune therapies, and drug therapies.

This is the first time that Equatorial Guinea has reported an outbreak of MVD. The most recently reported outbreak of MVD was in Ghana in 2022 (three confirmed cases). Other MVD outbreaks have been previously reported in Guinea (2021), Uganda (2017, 2014, 2012, 2007), Angola (2004-2005), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1998 and 2000), Kenya (1990, 1987, 1980) and South Africa (1975).

Public health response

In-depth epidemiological investigations are underway to determine the source of the outbreak.

National teams have been deployed to the affected districts for active case finding, contact tracing, isolating and providing medical care to cases.

WHO has deployed experts in epidemiology, case management, infection prevention, laboratory and risk communication to support national response efforts and ensure community engagement.

WHO is also facilitating the shipment of tents, materials for sample collection and analysis, and a viral haemorrhagic fever kit including personal protective equipment for 500 health workers.

WHO is supporting the transportation of samples to laboratories in Senegal and Gabon as plans are underway to set up laboratory facilities in-country.

WHO risk assessment

Equatorial Guinea is facing an outbreak of MVD for the first time and the country’s capacity to manage the outbreak is insufficient.

Based on available information, all nine deceased cases were in contact with a relative with the same symptoms or participated in a burial of a person with symptoms compatible with MVD. At this stage it cannot be ruled out that all MVD cases have been identified, therefore there could be transmission chains that have not been tracked. To date, most of the contacts of the nine deceased cases have not been identified.

It should also be noted that with the exception of one case who died in a health facility, the other eight died in the community and their burial conditions are unknown.

Cross-border population movements are frequent, and the borders are very porous, between Ebebiyin and Nsock Nsomo districts (Equatorial Guinea), Cameroon and Gabon. This constitutes a risk of cross-border spread.

Considering the above described scenario, the risk is considered high at the national level, moderate at the regional level and low at the global level.

WHO advice

Marburg virus disease outbreak control relies on using a range of interventions, namely case management, surveillance including contact tracing, a good laboratory service, infection prevention and control including safe and dignified burials, and social mobilization. Community engagement is key to successfully controlling MVD outbreaks. Raising awareness of risk factors for Marburg infection and protective measures that individuals can take is an effective way to reduce human transmission.

Communities affected by Marburg should make efforts to ensure that the population is well informed, both about the nature of the disease itself and about necessary outbreak containment measures.

Outbreak containment measures include prompt, safe and dignified burial of the deceased cases, identifying people who may have been in contact with someone infected with Marburg and monitoring their health for 21 days, isolating and providing care to confirmed patients and maintaining good hygiene and a clean environment.

Healthcare workers caring for patients with or suspected of MVD should apply additional infection control measures in addition to standard precautions to avoid contact with patients’ blood and body fluids and with surfaces and objects contaminated.

WHO recommends that male survivors of MVD practice safer sex and hygiene for 12 months from onset of symptoms or until their semen twice tests negative for Marburg virus. Contact with body fluids should be avoided and washing with soap and water is recommended. WHO does not recommend isolation of male or female convalescent patients whose blood has tested negative for Marburg virus.

WHO advises against any restrictions on travel and/or trade to Equatorial Guinea based on available information for the current outbreak.

Source: World Health Organization

SFCG/GGL: La cherté de la vie : source de malheur qui paralyse pas mal de domains

Plus les années passent, le coût de la vie devient un poids très lourd pour beaucoup de familles. La cherté de la vie dans les pays de la région des Grands Lacs dresse des obstacles que rencontrent les citoyens et surtout les jeunes.

« La cherté de la vie affecte ma vie en tant que jeune car il est difficile de préparer un avenir alors que même le présent n’est pas assuré ou rassurant. Je ne peux pas faire l’épargne car le peu que je gagne est pour une consommation directe. J’ai toujours peur de m’engager pour le mariage. » Des mots pleins de franchise d’un des jeunes vivant dans cette région.

Le coût de la vie ne cesse de s’élever. Obligés d’y faire face, les jeunes doivent se débrouiller, s’adapter tout en opérant des choix entre le nécessaire et ce qui ne l’est pas mais qui devrait l’être. Il faut faire des priorités.

Le salaire reste le même et donc le pouvoir d’achat diminue car le peu de moyens obtenus ne peut pas être d’une grande utilité, ce qui engendre une insatisfaction qui conduit certains jeunes dans des activités totalement défavorables au dévéloppement de leurs pays.

Des conséquences incalculables

Même si cette cherté de la vie affecte la population de la région des Grands Lacs en général, ce sont les jeunes qui sont les plus touchés par cette situation. « Cela nous affecte d’une façon ou d’une autre selon les ambitions de chacun ».

Dans l’émission « Génération Grands Lacs », pour les jeunes du Rwanda, du Burundi et de la RDC, lancée par Search for Common Ground, produit chaque semaine, avec le soutien de la Coopération suisse et USAID, quelques jeunes du Congo et du Burundi ainsi que M. Straton Habyarimana, analyste et chercheur en économie vivant au Rwanda, nous exposent leurs expériences vécues.

Selon certains jeunes approchés, il est difficile de se prendre en charge, de joindre les deux bouts suite à la hausse des prix des denrées de première nécessité sur le marché. « Cette situation rend impossible le fait de penser à fonder un foyer de peur de ne pas subvenir aux besoins de la famille fondée ».

Sans aucun espoir dans l’avenir, l’horizon étant bouché, la jeunesse s’adonne à des activités peu recommandables hypothéquant leur développement, il y en a qui se réfugient dans la drogue au moment où d’autres s’adonnent à la prostitution, etc….

Des initiatives pour y faire face

Pour M. Straton Habyarimana, la cherté de la vie est une variation relative dépendant de plusieurs facteurs à savoir la dévalorisation de la monnaie locale et la hausse des prix sur le marché faisant exemple au taux d’inflation qui s’est augmenté d’à peu près de 16% et de 19,57% au Burundi au mois d’août.

Selon lui, il y a une autre méthode qui s’applique pour examiner la cherté de la vie dont la PPP (Parité de la monnaie locale par rapport au dollar) qui au Rwanda aurait augmenté de 4,5% annuellement et de 6,89% entre les années 2002 et 2021. « Cela rend plus faible la capacité d’importer les biens et services ».

Pour y faire face, chaque pays a adopté des stratégies. Pour ce qui est du Rwanda, plusieurs stratégies sont adoptées à l’exemple des facilités pour produits essentiels comme l’essence surtout pour le transport afin de réduire les coûts des biens primaires.

La politique monétaire qui consiste à faire en sorte que la monnaie en circulation soit au diapason avec le niveau de l’économie à travers différents outils que la banque centrale utilise comme le taux d’intérêt, les impôts et les taxations, contribuent également à régulariser la quantité de la monnaie en circulation avec le niveau de l’économie. « Le taux d’inflation se retrouve maîtrisé ».

Il y a aussi d’autres stratégies mises en place par le gouvernement comme cet appui aux plus démunis à travers quelques programmes comme le Vision 2020 Umurenge Program (VUP), Girinka et bien d’autres.

D’après cet analyste et chercheur en économie, les stratégies adoptées ne suffisent pas car le problème de la cherté de la vie semble perdurer dans chaque pays de la région des Grands Lacs.

Straton Habyarimana suggère de faire un suivi-évaluation de la politique monétaire fiscale pour voir si les objectifs visés ont été atteints, d’après lui, il faut également prioriser la production des biens se trouvant au premier rang des besoins et services dans le domaine de l’agriculture et de l’industrie, ce qui rendra leurs prix abordables par n’importe quel citoyen.

Source: IWACU Burundi